Can I Trust the Bible? (Part I): God Speaks
Read the Introduction to this series of posts.
“Our God comes; he does not keep silence” (Psalm 50:3).
Have you ever gotten the “silent treatment” from a spouse or a child (or a parent)? Have you ever dished it out? There’s a reason why the silent treatment is one of the most effective ways to passive-aggressively punish those close to us: we hate it! We can’t stand it when a loved one refuses to communicate.
As bad as it is when we get the silent treatment from another human being, how much worse would it be to experience the silent treatment from your god? Actually, this is one of the ways ancient prophets used to troll the false gods of Israel’s neighbors: “They have mouths, but do not speak” (Psalm 135:16).
Recently, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about Scripture that boil down to one foundational issue: “Can I trust the Bible?” To begin to answer that question, we first need to recognize that the God described in Scripture is not like those speechless idols. Foundational to any study of the Bible is the reality that God is a speaking God.
God Works by His Word
God has been speaking from the very beginning. Consider how He made the universe: He spoke! “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3 emphasis added). Light and darkness, sea and dry land, trees, animals, fish, birds, bugs, and people: all were spoken into existence by God’s powerful word. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. . . . He spoke and it came to be” (Psalm 33:6-9).
By speaking, God effects the phenomena of nature and brings about the salvation of human beings. Even the weather obeys His word: “Fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind, fulfilling his word” (Psalm 148:8; cf. Psalm 147:15-18). The Son of God “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). God saves through the proclamation of His word (Ezekiel 37:1-14); that proclamation is His power to bring about salvation (Romans 1:16).
When the apostle John foresees Jesus’ return to earth as the sovereign Son of God, he describes a vision of a man from whose mouth comes “a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations,” a vivid reference to the power and authority of his divine speech (Revelation 19:15).
Whether he is acting to create, to sustain, to save, or to judge, God works by His word.
God’s Identity with His Word
Not only does God speak to accomplish his work of creating, sustaining, saving, and judging, He—amazingly—equates His word with Himself! Jesus the Son of God is called the “Word” (John 1; Revelation 19:13). The writer to the Hebrews claims that “in these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son” (1:2). No wonder that the psalmist could claim, “You have exalted above all things your name and your word” (Psalm 138:2).
Why It Matters
Clearly, a central part of God’s character and nature is that He is a speaking God. In the Old Testament alone, phrases like “the LORD said,” “the LORD spoke,” and “the word of the LORD came” appear 3,808 times (Moody 2008: Mohler, He Is Not Silent, 41)!
Consider the alternative: if God were not a speaking God, it would be impossible for us to know anything about God at all. As Creator, God is altogether different from us, infinitely holy, separate from his creation. Apart from His revelation of Himself, there would be no way for our limited minds to even begin to understand Him. The fact that He speaks, the fact that He reveals Himself to us in various ways is evidence in and of itself that He is a kind and gracious God who desires a relationship with his human creatures.
What that tells me is that God is not trying to hide from you. He hasn’t launched a counter-intelligence campaign to throw you off the trail. He isn’t running from you, hoping you won’t figure Him out. On the contrary, God desires to be known. He has been pursuing his creatures, calling out to them, ever since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:9). That’s good news, because if the God who made the world wishes to speak—if He wishes to be heard—then there is literally nothing that can stop Him (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Can you trust the Bible? There is more to say in answer to this question, but we begin with a recognition that our God is a God who does not keep silence. He speaks, and his words can never fail.
Read Part II.